Ironman Wales 2016. Disclaimer: it may take you as long to read this report as it took me to finish the raceWorth a read though!
The race report as told by a loud Northern girl who was cocky enough to think she may stand a chance!
"One does not simply hope so much for a calm sea. One prays. Much"
As I stood there down at the start line with the other athletes awaiting the Welsh national anthem just as I'd watched and heard the year before (as a spectator) I listened to a guy say "yeah I hoped so much it would be a calm sea. Been hoping the last few days it would stay calm" I simply replied with....oh I am glad you hoped. I prayed!!! My stomach was churning and it was almost unbearable. You see....I was stood face to face with my biggest fear. I'd faced it a couple of times but this was for real now. I didn't have my dear friend Kim there keeping me calm. I had to do this myself. I stood at the start with Christopher but this was my own race. when that timing mat got crossed i was there facing this battle, fighting alone with only the strength of God on my shoulders and the months of training to tell me I can do this. But you can't train a fear away aside from facing it again and again. I'd sat on that very beach on Friday afternoon and sobbed. It took me ages to get my wetsuit on and in swimming but glad I did as it helped me get a feel for the sea again. There were no tears this morning though. Not even any rain amazingly. In fact the only water falling of any kind was from the guy next to me out of his wetsuit as he clearly couldn't wait a few more minutes and decided to piss down his own leg in his wetsuit. He wasn't the only guy either. Something slightly surreal and creepy about being surrounded largely by men in rubber suits lubed up to their eyeballs pissing their pants. As I looked out as the anthem played the sun was rising over the sea. The golden warmth and light reflected over the small waves in the serene sea. It almost looked appealing. Gun gone and the pro men were in. 5 mins later the pro women. Then they start the rest of us mere mortals out. I edged closer to the line and off I went. Now was the time. The clock was ticking. The jellyfish don't give a shit if you're scared, neither does the sea, nor the timing clock. Crack on Jayden your time is now!!! I approached my entry to the sea with a few steps until deep enough to swim. A bit of breast stroke. Enough for the RNLI lifeguard to ask if I was ok. Sake man, I can swim, I'm just acclimatising!!! "Yes I'm fine" I replied. Best get on with some actual swimming I thought to myself. Started with my approach of head out of water front crawl to the point I gave in and started swimming properly. Breathing was pretty tough between panic but I HAD to keep this under control. Losing control was not an option. I learnt on Friday that if I look forward while in the sea I simply see bubbles and feet in front and less likely to see what lies beneath. Got a third of the way round and a bit crowded around the first buoy. Some kind hearted ray of sunshine decided to try swim over me and I proceeded to swallow half the bloody Irish Sea. Nothing a quick vomit couldn't sort out. I grabbed the edge of the lifeguard's board and chucked up. Stay classy Jayden. "Are you ok?" He says. "Yeah yeah I'm *dry heaves and gags* fine" I reply. It got a little choppier at this point and come across to the other side the swim back felt much easier going with the current. It had taken me 21 mins to get to that first buoy and I worried if that was 1/3 way round lap 1 I'd be pushing cut offs. Swim. Come on. Swim!!! I got to lap one time in 41 mins by watch. A PB was on at this rate. No major drama either. On to lap two felt much easier on the swimming but half way round and I made the error of looking down and BAM the bloody jelly fish was below. Luckily far enough below to be of no concern but enough that classic horror film sound goes in the head. A bit further in and another of the over friendly little buggers appears. A bit further on and another one. Shit. Swim for your life. I think I must credit them for finishing with a 3 minute swim PB 1h26. I got out and fist pumped the air. I now stood a chance at cracking what is well rumoured to be probably the hardest official Ironman course going. Now onto transition. Simple right? No you'd be wrong thinking that. Out the beach. Up what felt like a mountain of zig zag path to collect a bag with shoes, pack the wetsuit into a bag along with goggles and hat. Then a casual saunter through the town of 1km looking like a bag lady just to even get to transition. Belter. Get changed into bike gear. Remember I've put my socks on the bike this morning as I forgot to put them in my transition bag. 16 mins later and I'm out of t1. I ended up cycling barefoot in my bike shoes. I'd heard about this course but hadn't had chance to recce it. I knew I expect every last hill in Wales to be thrown into it and I know I'm terrible at climbing hills. Let's face it with an arse with its own gravitational field I was never designed to go against gravity. Hills have never been my thing. However I knew I believed in my training. My coach Neil Scholes had me doing lots of specific sessions even in winter using the turbo trainer on big gears. While my mates were in the pub I was dreaming of hitting the road on two wheels with the wind blowing my hair. Bolton ironman had been my main aim for the year but a few months ago i decided to add Wales. I remembered at the start of Bolton training season dreaming about what it must be like to go to the world champs in Kona and thinking oh no there's a sea swim what would you do? I remember saying to myself it would be a once in a lifetime chance so I'd just face it and get over it somehow. I'm realist and knew it was a long time before i'd have a garland round my neck and booking a trip to Kona, Hawaii. So I decided I had to face this fear. It had been around since i was 14, when on a boat in the Mediterranean and had been pushed when i hesitated about getting in and panicked in the waves. I had never really been in the sea much since then and definitely not to swim. With that thought process I found myself training for two ironman races. I knew i had the legs for the hills. Not only had i done a few thousand miles but I'd done long rides and hills a plenty. Before I knew it I was largely through the first lap of approx 30 or 40 something miles and the scenery had blown me away. I realised early on this was single handedly the most epic bike ride I'd ever been on. I had planned for around 8hrs knowing I did Bolton in 7:04 and that was around 5,000ft versus 7,500ft. I'd Planned up to around 2hrs to get out of swim so knew cut offs were a very real thing. I'd heard from various people to add 60/90 mins into your normal ironman time which would give me around 15:30-16hrs. My priority was simply a finish. No real time but knew I would be thrilled if under 16hrs. With the struggles that i had faced in the lead up to Bolton I lost a lot of my run fitness due to side effects of medication I had been taking. It had been three months to the date since my last panic attack as I stood on that start line of my third ironman and I'd been mainly medication free for around 3 weeks. I liked that set of numbers. 3rd ironman, 3rd month panic attack free and 3rd week meds free. I was finding myself surprised at how easy the ride felt and had been trying not to get carried away so by around 100k I'd averaged 16.5mph and knew I needed only to hit around 14mph. I decided to save some energy in the tank. I continued my nutrition plan of high GI carbs and low GI carbs alternated every 30/40 mins which saw me through well. I had a couple of emergency gels and a bag of chocolate raisins, cherries and pecans too for a change of flavour. Around the second lap coming up to mile 70 came a hill which was 16% but after that many miles it hurt. I stayed in the bike determined not to get off and shortly after that came saundersfoot. I knew this spot from spectating last year and it didn't disappoint. Aptly named heartbreak hill it was a longish drag but packed with spectators all willing you on. I simply smiled like a lunatic knowing I was soon to be an ironman Wales medal owner. The more I smiled the more they made noise and cheered! It was a smile of pride. Just at the top and over the brim to see my favourite guy there with his camera! He'd travelled from Paris the night before as a surprise to tell me I could do this. It's amazing the difference it makes knowing there's someone out on course really wanting to see your face and see you succeed. I have had my mum and Godmum out there before which is great but this felt different! We'd been for a walk the night before when he arrived and one of the hashtags I've been adding to my Tenby pictures was #faceyourfears which, when we looked up and saw on the side of a building. I'd never noticed it before but the side of this building had the words "face your fears" painted on it in big letters with spiders. It's funny. I'd described my fear of the sea to someone who was scared of spiders as the equivalent to them choosing to walk into a room full of spiders. It was like a simple reminder to me that this wasn't just any old ironman this weekend but far more challenging and that there was this awesome person there with me too who would be waiting at the end. So as he waited he just realised it was me as I passed on the bike. I knew I only had another 40 miles approx to get back there again! That did however mean doing both those hills again but sheer determination and gear grinding got me up and over and back again. He saw me a mile off grinning like a fool and as ever I smiled with that classic proud of myself smile! With that I knew the bike was in the bag. I had a couple of miles to roll into town and even with a mechanical I could probably still run the rest and get there in time. I ran into transition after grabbing my socks I had carried around the bike course. I didn't know my exact bike time but knew it was under 8hrs as the garmin died about 101 miles. I'm an idiot and only half charged it. You couldn't expect everything to go smoothly could you?' This is me after all!!! I did a 7:35 ride. Not bad on a course that brutal for a hike rubbsih a true hill climbing. I now headed out on to the run with no watch. I knew I had made the cut offs which at worst case scenario left 6.5hrs to knock out a marathon. I knew it was quite a tough old course so thought of I could do around 5:30 at a guess that would probably finish me around 15:30. I hadn't been sure of my transition times or bike course time as using my old Garmin but knew that within a marathon I'd be a proud owner of three ironman medals earned in just 14 months. That got out of hand quickly considering I was never doing one again!!! The run was 4 laps of basically a long uphill, a long down hill, a short up hill, a short down hill, a run through town for an ego boost and to see all the drunk spectators by this point and past the finish line. Repeat another three times. I could sense the crowds every time I passed cheering louder the more I smiled. The last lap I smiled pretty much all the way round, thanking the volunteers as I had done all day and smiling and thanking the spectators as I had done all day. There it was, that gloriously magnificent red carpet. It was mine. I wasn't having anyone else in my finisher picture this year so I bounced done that carpet arms in the air rejoicing for this was my day. This was the day I feared, doubted yet believed could happen. The day I faced my fears and the day where once again I was completely overwhelmed by the support and encouragement of family and friends. Those famous words rang loud "JOCELYN you are an ironman". Wait? Who the sod is JOCELYN??? I heard the poor woman try and read "Jayden" but I was so excited she misread it. It's fair cop really I honestly thought it was hilarious and I got to hear those words. I made sure I didn't cross at the same time as anyone else. I knew that was my line she'd said. I turned back to see my time.... 14:34!!! I did 6 mins in t2 and a 5:09 run. It was only 30 mins slower than my fastest pb set in Bolton exactly 2 months earlier. I turned forward again and there was the mayor with my medal to hang around my neck. I told him I thought his medal was much nicer and he replied with "yes but yours was well earned". With that I funnelled through to baggage to see my favourite guy again. It was rather lovely to have a massive hug and smile at a finish line. I'd done it. Three ironman medals. What's next you ask? Well I have a trip to Paris and then Chester marathon but I'm having a holiday in The sunshine before my last race of the year; Autumn 100 mile run which is the last in the grand slam series. Then I focus on training over winter, time to refine, improve, refocus and look forward to the next challenges that lie ahead because yes I think I can top even this. I can and I will. It's a long old rambling about essentially a day out swimming, cycling and running but I hope you take away one thing. I approached Ironman Wales thinking yes "It's a monster but monsters only scare you as much as you allow them to". This applies to anything because the simple fac is that success wan't found in your comfort zones and you don't know where your boundaries are until you try and cross them. The sense of pride I have now is pretty unreal, along perhaps with the sense of shame I have knowing I threw up over railings whilst trying not to fall over backwards whilst a handsome chap held my bags and bike. Just keeping it real! A huge well done to everybody who stepped that start line because I know now it takes guts and a gutsy effort to finish. If you found some entertainment in all of this and you'd like to throw some cash in for the mental health charity I've been raising for (Mind) the link is below. Heartfelt thanks to everybody who played a part in my journey even if I haven't named you all. From the haters to the lovers, the encouragers, inspirers and the web patient coach, friends and family this one's for you